Underground Film Journal
More » Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Fucking Tulsa

Crazed naked man holding a gun

Fucking Tulsa is a visceral and intensely cinematic experience, yet the version I witnessed was being touted as an incomplete motion picture. However, this relentlessly dark short film is only “incomplete” in that its ending simply begs for the story to be continued. As it stands in its current — and possibly final — form, it’s still a triumphant masterwork.

The film is directed by veteran character actor Clu Gulager (The Virginian, Return of the Living Dead), who does not appear in the film at all and who enlisted the help of his entire family to assist with the production. His oldest son John Gulager — who many people may know as the winner of the third season of Project Greenlight and as the director of the Feast horror movie trilogy — served as cinematographer. Younger son Tom stars as Fucking Tulsa‘s resident psycho drifter while wife Miriam has a role as a tortured elderly woman.

Prior to Fucking Tulsa, Clu Gulager directed two films, one completed, one not. The completed one is the dreamy 1967 short film A Day With the Boys, which stars a very young John. The unfinished film is the ambitious rock opera John and Norma Novak, which again stars Miriam and Tom and for which John completed the accomplished musical score as well as appeared in the film, too.

That the Gulager clan could not finish their two feature-length projects to their satisfaction from lack of funding has got to be one of the greatest crimes against cinema ever committed. Clu Gulager is a true visionary and an uncompromising artist whose genuine talents have been passed down to his children.

Shot on Super 8mm film, Fucking Tulsa has an appropriately gritty look that enhances the film’s relentlessly downbeat tone. Actually, “downbeat” isn’t harsh enough of a word to use to describe some of the atrocities committed to celluloid.

The film opens with Tom’s drifter character eating at some unnamed grungy diner. He eyes the other diners and, although there’s no dialogue in the scene other than background chatter, it’s clear he’s looking for victims. For what, though? Robbery? Murder? Rape? Or, perhaps, he’s looking at them as if they’re already victims, victims of a cruel society that has sent them to eat in this decrepit hellhole.

The drifter leaves without incident, but not without having a terrifying vision: A drooling, mentally-challenged man looks at the drifter as if to say, “Pity me.” The man then pulls out a huge revolver and blows his brains out.

Then, after a robbery at a pet supply store, the drifter returns home for the film’s darkest and bleakest sequences. First, there’s a horrific flashback to an incident of physical and sexual abuse endured by the drifter as a young boy.

But, the absolute worst is saved for last, in which the drifter has an encounter with a mentally unstable elderly woman, whom he orders to strip completely naked before killing her and urinating on her dying body. The scene becomes even more sadistic and offensive when one realizes that the dead, naked woman is played by Miriam, Tom the drifter’s actual mother.

Despite actions that are mired in the gutter, director Clu and cinematographer John Gulager really give the evil proceedings a grand, operatic feel with some truly magnificent camerawork. Although there is a bit of an over-reliance on dolly shots, the Gulagers at least continually kept in mind for each scene that they were creating a true cinematic experience, which is not always easy to capture using the “small” Super 8 format. The film shifts from sweeping camera movements to scenes shot “surreptitiously” like the pet store robbery sequence to unflinching close-ups during the stripping scene. Plus, each shot seems to be imbued with a sick, lurid intensity whether the action is focused on something trivial or something scandalous.

Fucking Tulsa is an experience and a cinematic baseball bat to the side of the head. It is, indeed, a “complete” film. And completely, and uniquely, deranged.

More on this film: Movie Site


Underground Film Feedback (1 comment)

  • joey says:

    Black vail what a story that came out of the darkness of the gulager work shop to this day I can see the images of that movie . Clu is the master of directing of what people want to see and what could happen out in the world . John what can be said the man is a gunius at the art of darkness the hours he spent in the back room with his films and the devil him self To keep him company . Tom who could not love this guy what a actor he would work in the hot summer of Tulsa with no complaints as it must have been every bit of 100 in the house
    Diana so pretty and so smart and Lisa tacking care of the needs of continuity of the movie what a gift to have know Marin the wife of clu the coolest one there a woman of woman ,I truly loved her acting not only in this but also waco yes my favorite person there . As a dark black movie has been started It will interesting to see what my little Nicky gulagers have done with there time JRG

Post Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *